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Identifying The Seven Characteristics Of An Amateur Mix

Although some artists and mixers get lucky by flying through a mix, making and mixing records usually takes a lot of time and attention.

By Bobby Owsinski April 11, 2011

The Mixing Engineer's Handbook
This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

This may come as no great surprise to you, but I’m frequently asked to review mixes.

While many are remarkable and are a display of great talent, there does exist a category of mixes that, for want of a better term, you could call “amateur”.

An amateur mix usually means that you’ve not spent enough time listening and learning, but when you can’t determine why a mix sounds great, the next best thing is to determine when you have something that’s, shall we say, less than great.

So, excerpted from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, here are seven characteristics of an amateur mix.

Do your mixes exhibit any of these characteristics?

1) No Contrast
The same musical textures are used throughout the entire song. This is generally an arrangement issue, which the mixer can affect somewhat since mixing is so much more than balancing.

It’s influencing the arrangement by what you mute, emphasize or lower in the mix.

2) A Frequent Lack Of A Focal Point
There are holes between lyrics where nothing is brought forward in the mix to hold the listener’s attention.

Granted, this is an arrangement issue too, but it’s your job as a mixer to find some point of interest and emphasize it.

3) Mixes That Are Noisy
Clicks, hums, extraneous noises, count-offs, and sometimes lip-smacks and breaths are all things that the listener finds distracting.

It may be a pain to eliminate these distractions but you’ve got to do it to take the mix to where it has to be.

4) Mixes That Lack Clarity And Punch
Instruments aren’t distinct, and low-end frequencies are either too weak or too big.

This is really the number one indication of an amateur mix, especially in the low end.

It’s either way too heavy or way too light. The way around this is to listen to other records that you think sound great and try to emulate the sound. Sure it takes time, but it will get you in the ballpark.

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About Bobby

Bobby Owsinski
Bobby Owsinski

Music Industry Veteran and Technical Consultant
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. To read more from Bobby, and to acquire copies of his outstanding books such as The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, be sure to check out his website at


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